Home Ministry tables constitutional amendment to citizenship laws

KUALA LUMPUR: The much anticipated proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution on citizenship laws has been tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat.

It was tabled in Parliament by Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail on Monday (March 25).

The bill was scheduled for its second and third reading in this meeting.

The bill seeks to amend Part II of the Second Schedule to the Federal Constitution to allow children born overseas to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses to be granted the automatic right to confer their citizenship for their children.

Prior to this, only children born overseas to Malaysian fathers were granted automatic right to confer their citizenship to their children.

"With the amendment to paragraph (b) of section 1 of Part II of the Second Schedule to the Federal Constitution, the birth of a child born outside the Federation shall be registered, within one year of its occurrence or within such longer period as the Federal Government may allow, at a consulate of the Federation or with the Federal Government," the bill read.

Other amendments include an amendment to Clause 2 of Article 15 of the Federal Constitution to lower the age limit for citizenship application to 18 from 21 in line with the voting age in Malaysia as well as the definition of child as provided in the Child Act 2001 and the age of majority as provided in the Age of Majority Act 1971.

The bills also seek to amend clause (1) Article 15 of the Federal Constitution to impose an additional requirement requiring married women applying for citizenship through registration to have adequate knowledge of Bahasa Malaysia.

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Meanwhile, after the bill was tabled, Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan (PN-Kota Bharu) said the Opposition were "caught by surprise" that provisions that were mentioned during the engagement with the ministry did not make it to the final version of the bill.

"“For the purpose of the record of this House, the Opposition almost fully agreed to the proposed amendments mentioned in the briefing by the Home Minister and the ministry.

"But unfortunately some important provisions were not included in the blue bill," the Opposition chief whip said.

He said the ministry should have briefed the Opposition before finalising the version of the bill that was tabled in the House on Monday.

Takiyuddin said Saifuddin should have explained to the House before making such a major move as it involves a constitutional amendment.

However, Deputy Speaker Datuk Ramli Mohd Noh who was presiding over the meeting gave Takiyuddin two options namely to move a motion or to raise the matter during the debate of the bill.

Last Friday (March 22), Saifuddin said Putrajaya decided to drop two proposed amendments involving Article 19B and Section 1(e) Part 2 of Schedule 2 of the Federal Constitution.

These amendments would have deprived foundlings and stateless children of automatic citizenship and would see them needing to register for it instead.

Section 19B, Part III provided that foundlings were given automatic citizenship by operation of law, giving them the benefit of doubt as to the date and place of their birth, as the status of their biological parents was unknown and unable to be proven.

Section 1(e), Part II states that citizenship was given to vulnerable and affected people, such as children born out of wedlock, adopted and abandoned stateless children, and indigenous communities.

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